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How should I repot rescue orchid ?

S Rodriguez
3 months ago

Got an orchid whose leaves were like dried paper. Soaked it and removed dead roots . It is in spaghnum. Should I use more spaghnum when I repot or add some coarse mix?



Comments (17)

  • Billsc
    3 months ago

    S Rodriguez, Looks like you have a Phalaenopsis that is probably beyond salvaging, but if you are willing to invest a bit of time and TLC in the "plant", we can try a few tricks that might work. If you are, first, I would cut the old bloom spike off down near the plant. That will prevent it from getting any wild ideas about blooming. Find a clear plastic bread bag, and slide the root ball down into the bag, top facing up, all the way to the bottom. With a sharp small bladed knife, punch 5-6 holes in various places along the side of the bag, but none around the bottom so it won't drip. You say you already watered the root ball, and that's fine. Just keep the Sphagnum its planted in moist. Tie the top of the bag off with a string and find a place to hang the bag where it will get some light, but no direct sun. Forget about it for about 3-4 days, then check it for moisture (stick your finger into one of the slits and feel the root ball. If the roots feel light and room temperature, take a turkey baster and squirt an ounce or so of water on the root ball. If the ball is cool and feels heavy, its wet...check back again in a few days. Keep this process up until (1) You give up and purchase another plant that is already growing and blooming, or (2) you see new leaves beginning to grow from the old plants crown. If you get new growth, keep the watering up until the plant gets large enough that you have to cut the bag open to get it out. You should-probably will, by that time see new roots growing in the old root ball, at that point, find a pot that the existing root ball will fit in, and place the pot on a not-so-well lighted bench in your orchid growing area and begin to treat it like a "normal" Phalaenopsis orchid plant. Keep us posted on progress.

    Bill


  • bonsai_citrus_and_indoor_gardening
    3 months ago

    Bill, I'd never heard of that method for rescuing a dying orchid. I might try it the next time someone gives me an orchid to try to save. I might add though, and you can probably correct me here if I'm off base, but it seems like there's some moldy sphagnum in that root ball. I'd probably remove as much of the rotten medium as possible first.

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  • jane__ny
    3 months ago

    Toss it


    Jane

  • S Rodriguez
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    Bill, thanks for the advice . I am concerned about the wet spaghnum. Do you think it might rot the roots? Maybe I should loosen it up. i like a challenge so i will give this a chance

  • Billsc
    3 months ago

    Bonzi, and S Rodriguez, Both of you, Excellent points! The whole idea is to get you to thinking, and digging for information about your plants. Go back and read my first sentence to S Rodriguez, where I said it looks like he has a plant that is beyond salvage...But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. No matter what he does to that plant, the odds are not in favor of him saving it, But, if he wants to give it the time and work, and does pull it off, imagine the pride, confidence, and knowledge that has been added to a new orchid grower. Yes, pull the root ball open so it can dry out a bit, check it for mold, or, don't do either of those things, and see what happens. Species orchids normally live their entire lives hanging from rocks and trees in steamy hot jungles where most of us wouldn't go near. And I'll tell you a little secret...There are very few people in those jungles running around with buckets of funny shaped pieces of frozen water to put on the plants every X number of days. Orchids are "tough ol' plants, and despite the beating and battering they get from nature, they still manage to give us beautiful presentations of some of the most beautiful blooms in nature. With a bit of extra care from a well informed grower applying thoughtful common sense growing practices, Orchids can and will be some of the most beautiful plants/blooms in nature. I think it is worth the trouble! Soak up the knowledge, and apply it well.

    bill

  • Meyermike(Zone 6a Ma.)
    3 months ago

    How is that possible, anyone?

    How can an orchid have what looks like healthy roots and yet no top growth or leaves?

  • miniplants Central KY 6a windowsill-grower
    3 months ago

    I agree with Jane: you're in for several years of struggle at best. Unless it's a Phal you particularly cherish and can't replace or just want to do the experiment out of curiosity.

    Sue

  • bonsai_citrus_and_indoor_gardening
    3 months ago

    I've had one given to me with a living root or two and the leaves dead. Not sure how it happens, but it does. If the op has the time, trying to revive it might be worth the educational value. Better to learn on something cheap (or free), than to learn on an expensive plant.

  • jane__ny
    3 months ago

    The method is called 'sphag and bag.' Sometimes it works but I do not think it is worth the time nor effort. Phals are cheap enough and readily available all over.

    Even if the plant makes a small leaf, you are far away from growing this dead Phal to blooming shape. If you want to try it for the fun of it, do it.

    Personally, I wouldn't do it nor recommend it.


    Jane

  • bonsai_citrus_and_indoor_gardening
    3 months ago

    Jane, are you saying you wouldn't recommend it at all? I'm curious if it would be worthwhile for a damaged orchid on the off chance that you can save it. (I've been given a few in the past that I assumed were beyond saving, and I'm wondering if this would have worked). I think the educational value of bringing an orchid back from the brink can be applied to other orchids, and better to learn on something cheap. Personally, I don't grow my orchids in sphagnum, but that's because where I live it usually stays wet too long and then rots the roots (I've been given more than one orchid in this state). But each person has to learn what works in their environment, and phalaenopsis are an inexpensive (relatively) way to do that.


    Bill, I love your allusion to the "ice" method of watering orchids. Reminds me that there's a lot of not so good advice out there. I think sometimes we get so fussy about our plants and forget that they grow wild somewhere. Approximate their environment and they'll grow well. Best thing I ever learned was not to worry about it. Once you find what doesn't work, it's usually pretty easy to rule it out and find what does. And once you find what does work, at least the orchids tend to remind you that they're wild and grow how they want. :)

  • party_music50
    3 months ago

    I'm new-ish to orchids and only have two phals -- one came in a bark mix and one came in sphagnum moss, so I have continued to leave them in their respective medias. It's a learning process for me, so I would definitely keep this just to see what happens. lol! Orchids are generally not available here, and when they are available all you'll see are phals. I'd slip it back into its original pot -- I wouldn't mess with the roots or media because I think it would stress it more -- then I'd put it in a nice comforting spot and wait to see what it did. :)

  • S Rodriguez
    Original Author
    3 months ago

    Thank you everyone for your comments. I am curious to see if it can be revived, and will loosen up the sphagnum.. I will post updates in the future.

  • miniplants Central KY 6a windowsill-grower
    3 months ago

    I once read on a forum that if the plant has leaves but no roots it has a much better chance of rescue than if it has roots but no leaves. What do people here think?

  • Billsc
    3 months ago

    Miniplants, I'm going to bow out of that one for the following reasons. I no longer have a large collection of orchids, and have not had a large collection for many years now. When I left the orchid business, I purchased or was given a few plants that I had a personal interest in, and over the years I have accumulated a few more plants for one reason or another. Some are divisions of plants I have had for many years. We have downsized, and I no longer have room to grow a lot of plants.

    When I had a large greenhouse and many more plants, I would frequently repot a Cattleya and find that I had a few pseudobulbs on the back of the plant that no longer had roots, but did have fairly plump bulbs and leaves that were at least presentable. Just for the fun of it I would occasionally throw one of these back-bulb clumps into a bread bag and see what would happen. More often than not I found that in a couple of years I could have a plant that I could give to someone to learn with. I got a real pleasure seeing the look on someone's face when I would pick up a plant off my growing bench and just give it to them. The gift always came with care instructions on the spot, plus written instructions, and my telephone number with instructions to call me with questions. I'd love to know how many of those plants are still alive. Heck, at my age I wonder how many of the recipients are still alive.

    Back to the chase....I was reviving primarily Cattleya, or plants with pseudobulbs, not many Phals. so by default most of my plants were leafed with no roots. that would skew my results, but I did get reasonable success with the plants I tried.

    Bill

  • jane__ny
    3 months ago

    Bill is so right. Cattleyas have bulbs which store water and nutrients. You can cut those off and in the right conditions get root growth and a new plant. I have done it taking at least 3 bulbs and got them started. Takes a lot of time.


    Phals without leaves is another story. They do not have pseudobulbs and have no backup system. If lucky, your Phal could make a keiki which you could grow to replace the dead plant.


    All of things take a lot of time. The only reason I might spend the time doing this would be with a very special plant which would be difficult to replace. However, it is a good growing education and if successful, a new plant.


    Jane

  • party_music50
    3 months ago

    fwiw, both of my orchids came with a tag instructing that they be watered with 4 ice cubes each week. I ignored the tags. :)

  • Billsc
    3 months ago

    Thanks Jane, Now let’s dig into this a bit deeper….it’s not really that difficult. I had a section of both my greenhouses that were really pretty shaded. If someone visited my greenhouse, they would usually find a bread bag or two tied up hanging under the bench in that dark corner of the house. I had repotted a plant and taken two or so pseudobulbs from the back of the plant and put them in the bag with a hand full of damp potting mix. And they just hung there. Every few weeks I would stick my finger in the bag to check the moisture content and look through the plastic to see if the plant was doing any thing (like growing). When I felt it had made sufficient progress in the bag, it was removed, potted, and placed in a “quiet” place on the bench. If I had a visitor who expressed an interest in growing an orchid plant, I could usually find one of these “special” plants to gift them with.

    The parent plant was a part of my collection, so it automatically carried some value to me, It was valuable enough to me that I repotted it, and although it had hung around in my greenhouse for some considerable amount of time, I did not have a great deal of actual work time invested in it over those weeks or months. Fact was, it was a gift that I really had very little actual work invested in, but it did possess value to me, and it had been made into a gift that just might help create a new convert to my hobby…orchid culture.

    Yes, it did take time, but not real work, dedicated time. It had no real value-it was grown from what would normally be considered the tail end trash generated by re-potting an orchid plant, but if the recipient did manage to grow it to bloom, its blooms would look just like the blooms on the plant that was worthy enough to be taking up bench space in my greenhouse. And if all this created one more convert to the hobby of orchid culture, or just made someone happy at what they had accomplished, I was happy.


    When life throws you lemons—go find a pitcher, water, ice, sugar, a tall glass, and a shade tree.

    Bill